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PSYC 2650 Lecture Notes - Phoneme, Speech Perception, Categorical Perception

Course Code
PSYC 2650
Anneke Olthof

of 5
Cognitive Psychology: Chapter 10
- Knowing language is a key part of being human; it is a human universal, and no other species has as complex a
communicative system
- Language is essential for a huge range of human achievements. Without it, cultural transmission of information
and the acquisition of knowledge would be much more limited
The Organization of Language
- At a basic level, language involves translating thoughts into series of sounds that can be spoken
- The listener then converts these series of sounds back into thoughts
- Language has a hierarchical organization that allows these translations between thought and sound
- Sentence a coherent sequence of words that expresses meaning
- Word the smallest free form in a language
- Morpheme the smallest unit of sound that can carry meaning in a language
- Phoneme the smallest unit of sound that can distinguish words in a language
There are only 40 phonemes
- This organization is hierarchical because sentences are composed of words, words are composed of morphemes,
and morphemes are composed of phonemes
- Phonemes are produced by modulating the flow of air from the lungs to the mouth and nose
- Phonemes can be classified according to features
- Voicing
Whether vocal folds vibrate ([z], [d], [b], [v])
Or not ([s], [t], [p], [f])
- Manner of production
Whether air is fully stopped ([b], [p], [d], [t])
Or merely restricted ([z], [s], [v], [f])
- Place of articulation
Where in the mouth the air is restricted:
Closing of lips ([b], [p])
Top teeth against bottom lip ([v], [f])
Tongue behind upper teeth ([d], [t], [z], [s])
- Speech perception is complicated by the fact that there are no gaps between phonemes, nor between words
- Speech segmentation  stream into words and phonemes
- Coarticulation refers to how the production of each phoneme is slightly altered depending on the preceding and
following sounds
- As a result, no particular acoustic pattern corresponds to a phoneme such as [s]; the pattern is different in
different contexts
- As with vision, in speech perception we do not only rely on the stimuli we receive; we supplement this input with
prior knowledge about words and the contexts in which they appear
- This can be demonstrated with the phonemic restoration effect that are not actually
present in the stimulus if they are highly likely in the context
e * represents a burst of noise
-- We can use context to fill in the blanks
- Our categorization of phonemes shows abrupt boundaries, even when
there is no corresponding abrupt change in the stimuli themselves
We are able to detect these abrupt boundaries
- This phenomenon is referred to as categorical perception
- Phonology is also concerned with the sequences of phonemes that are acceptable in the language
E.g., the sequence [tl] is not acceptable in English
- Other rules govern the adjustments that must occur when certain phonemes are uttered in sequence.
E.g., the [s] sound becomes a [z] in word
- For each word that a speaker knows, there are several kinds of information:
Phonology the sequence of phonemes that make up the word
Orthography how the word is spelled (if the person is literate)
Syntax how to combine the word with other words
Semantics what the word means
- Our syntactic knowledge about a word includes whether it requires a direct 
- A referent is the actual object, action, or event in the world that a word refers to
- owing the relevant concept
- Therefore, the same complexities of conceptual knowledge that we have previously encountered also apply to
words and semantics
- Our morphological knowledge specifies how to create variations of each word by adding appropriate morphemes
E.g., hack, hacker, hacking, hacked
- generativity the capacity to create an endless series of new combinations, all
built from the same set of basic units
- Generativity is also a fundamental property of how words are combined in phrases and sentences
- If you know 40,000 words, and we limit sentences to 20 words in length, there are 1020 possible sequences of
these words
- For practical purposes, there is an infinitely large number of sentences that speakers can produce in their
- Syntax also provides rules that specify the kinds of sequences of words that are acceptable:
- And those that are not acceptable:
- These rules also help us determine the relationships among the words in the sentence, for instance, who was
doing the chasing in the sentence:
-  correct,
even when meaningless
- 
- One kind of syntactic rule is a phrase-structure rule, a constraint that governs the pattern of branching in a
phrase-structure tree
- One such rule specifies that a sentence must contain a noun phrase (NP) and a verb phrase (VP)
- descriptive rules, or rules that characterize the
language as it is ordinarily used by fluent speakers
- In contrast, prescriptive rules e against splitting
- Phrase-structure approaches also make a distinction between competence and performance
- Competence refers to language knowledge that might be revealed under ideal circumstances
- Performance refers to the actual behaviour of a speaker/listener, including errors, under normal circumstances
- Often the words s to discuss
- D-structure  meaning in uttering a